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March 26, 2004 - Image 43

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2004-03-26

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of sponsors, including everything from the Great Lakes
Region of B'nai B'rith to the Dearborn-based Arab
Community Center for Economic and Social Services
(ACCESS) to the National Conference for Community
and Justice (NCCJ) Michigan Region.
At the DeRoy Theatre presentation, sponsored by the
Jewish Ensemble Theatre, the Greater Detroit Chapter
of Hadassah is sponsoring an intermission reception.
Marsha Rofel of West Bloomfield is filming a docu-
mentary on the project with the support of the
Southfield-based Specs Howard School of Broadcast
Arts Inc.
"We've had a group at the NCCJ since 9-11 called
Interfaith Partners to allow people to really get to know
one another on deep levels, not just meeting once for
dialogue," said Steve Spreitzer, NCCJ interfaith coordi-
"We see Children ofAbraham as a key vehicle by
which we can connect people in meaningful ways."

The Four-Step Process

The first to be connected by Children ofAbraham were
the writers — the 17 teens whose insights formed the
basis for the script.
"The first day, I had no idea who these people were
and where they came from," said writer Jasmine Way, a
Mosaic member who attends the International
Academy in Bloomfield Hills.
That feeling did not last long. Using what Rosenberg
calls a "four-step healing process," the teens soon got to
know one another and worked on airing their similari-
ties and differences.
"Step One is to sit down and break bread together —
we used pizza," Rosenberg explained. "For Step Two,
each person shares his or her own story of what it feels
like to be one of Abraham's children, what they believe,
what kinds of messages they were taught, any prejudices
they might have experienced."
This was one of the hardest parts for enthusiastic
teens, Rosenberg said. No one was allowed to interrupt.
The third step of the process is role-playing, in which
each participant acts out what others said they'd experi-
"Then, hopefully, there's the fourth step, where we
come together and embrace each other's truths,"
Rosenberg said.
In an essay about the writing process, Sophie Begg,
18, of Bloomfield Hills wrote, "the silent moments after
a story about injustice or discrimination had been told

were always awkward, but I later realized that it
was those stories that helped me to understand.
"Awkward, too, was the role-playing of differ-
ent characters, but yet again the opportunity to
view things from a different perspective permitted
me to gain a better understanding. The feelings,
thoughts, grievances and objections of others
were no less valid than my own."
Begg, who wears a hijab (headcovering) in
observance of her Moslem faith, attends the
University of Michigan-Dearborn.

Other Voices

Ninth-grader Harold Adam Harris, in his second
year as a Mosaic member, is also among the play's Enjoying a pizza at a recent rehearsal are Sophie Begg,
Jasmine Way, producer Brenda Rosenberg, Irine Sorser and
writers. Harris, who attends Detroit's Cass
Harold Adam Harris, under the watchful eyes of director
Technical High School, said .he was surprised at
Rick Sperling and writer Rachel Urist.
how much the Jewish and Muslim teens knew
about their religions.
"I'm a Christian, and I don't know that much
The story of Abraham's attempted sacrifice of his son
about my religion," he said.
is one such example, Liebman said. According to Jewish
"When I went home after the first day, I said,
tradition, the son whom God commanded that
`Where's the Bible?' and I looked everything up."
Abraham sacrifice was Isaac; the Koran tells a very simi-
Araz HaShemi, a Mosaic alumnus who now attends
lar story — but the sacrificial offering was to have been
Wayne State University, was recruited by Sperling to
take the role of the principal Muslim character.
"We worked very hard to make the play not offensive
"It's been a learning process," said HaShemi. "I'm
to anyone," said Sammy Sater of Troy, a senior at the
half-Persian; my father is an atheist and I myself am an
International Academy in Bloomfield Hills. "A lot of
agnostic. I didn't know anything about any religions."
peace plays I've seen have been offensive, even if they
HaShemi said his understudy — who is Muslim --
tried not to be."
is coaching him about the Muslim religion.
A Muslim character in the Children ofAbraham
"I wasn't sure what it would be like at first," said
speaks the following lines, citing a disciple of
Ariela Lis, 17, a student at Roeper School in Bloomfield Muhammad. "Humankind falls into two categories:
Hills, who is both a writer and actor in the play. "When those who are brothers in faith and those who are
they used the words 'children of Abraham,' I though it
brothers in humanity"
was going to be a real religious show," she said.
But the sentiment could just as easily apply to the
Lis, who attended the Seeds of Peace Camp in
young people who have joined hands to make
Maine, said she's secure in her Jewish identity — "but
Rosenberg's dream a reality.
I'm not an actress."
They are truly brothers — and sisters — in humani-
As a director, Sperling said, he looks for people with
ty. El
acting skills, but "also people who have the expertise
and the flexibility."
Commented Lis, "One thing I didn't have to be
The premiere performance of The Children of
taught is that peace is possible, because I already knew
Abraham Project takes place 8 p.m., Saturday,
March 27, at the Aaron DeRoy Theatre, Jewish
Another Seeds graduate, Miriam Liebman, 16, of
Community Center of Metropolitan Detroit,
Farmington Hills, said one of the major points she and
6600 W. Maple, West Bloomfield. Tickets: $20.
the 16 other writers tried to emphasize is "there can be
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more than one truth."

Di fferen t voices




ape State University student Ezra
Drissman, 23, remembered a day at
Farmington Hills Harrison High
School when a.Christian student
turned around and whispered, "Hey, Yehudi."
Sapna Sharma, 15, a student at the International
Academy in Bloomfield Hills, was only.12 when she-

Symposium aims to improve religious
and ethnic sensitivity in the schools.

and her friends were accosted by a group of African
American teens at a mall. "Are you the guys who
bombed us?" they were asked. "Are you going to kill
us now?"
Sharma was afraid to go to the mall after that. "And
I'm Hindu," she added.
Jennifer Loussia, 23, a student of Chaldean descent
at the University of Michigan in Dearborn,.was on
the peer mediation team when she attended Troy
High School. One case that came before the team .
concerned "one Chaldean boy who, to be funny, put

Christmas lights on a Muslim kid's house."
The three were part of a five-student panel at the
Religious Diversity Symposium March 17 at the •
Unity Center Mosque in Bloomfield Hills. In addi-
tion to the panel, the audience of about 200 Oakland
County teachers, school administrators and board
members attended sessions on world religions and
learned about existing diversity programs for young
Students' religious and cultural backgrounds have
VOICES on page 44




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